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Record Rates Resume

Applications head north

February 28, 2003

By CHRISTY ROBINSON


Mortgage rates experienced another record-low week, and dormant applications finally woke up -- this kind of environment will spur housing to more greatness in 2003, but don't expect rates to get much lower than they are, some experts say.

Freddie Mac's weekly rates survey found the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.79% this week, setting a new record. That's a slight decrease from last week's 5.84% and a nice contrast to last year's 6.80%. Nationally, the 30-year was highest in the North Central states at 5.87% and was lowest in the Southwestern states at 5.71%.

This week's 15-year came in at a record 5.14%, compared with last week's 5.21% and last year's 6.28%. The one-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) rose slightly from last week to 3.83%, however. Last year experienced a 4.94% ARM.

War, while destructive to other sectors, will probably make this a good year for the housing industry, said Freddie's chief economist Frank Nothaft.

"Debilitating forces, such as looming war clouds in the Mideast, declining consumer confidence, and other issues are making an economic rebound difficult. And when the economy is weak, interest rates tend to follow suit," he said. "Low rates will continue to keep the housing industry busy this year, and indications are that there is a good chance home sales may set yet another record in 2003."

Mortgage applications hadn't been responding as healthfully as expected to the recent drop in rates, but they finally experienced a rise last week.

For the week ending Feb. 21, applications increased 5.5% to 1142.8, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America's weekly index. The index, which reports a week behind Freddie's rate survey, is still more than double what it was last year at this time, however.

Refinancings rose as well, representing a tad more than three-quarters of last week's applications. Refis took up 72.5% of the previous week's applications and slightly less than half of last year's.

Most of the mortgage experts on Bankrate.com's weekly panel said they expect rates to drop within the next 30 to 45 days -- 46% said rates will decrease, 18% said they'll increase, and 36% said they'll go unchanged, within 2 basis points.

Jack Harris, who cast his vote for "unchanged," said the war can only pull rates so far down.

"War-inspired turmoil in the stock markets will keep interest rates low for a while. But don't look for them to go much lower than the current level," Harris, of Real Estate Center at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, said to Bankrate.com.

Christy Robinson is the editor of MortgageDaily.com. She received a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism from The University of Texas at Arlington. Her work has previously been published in The Dallas Morning News.

email Christy at: [email protected]



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